4 stars and a half

Category Romance Review: Love Unspoken by Carole Mortimer

Love Unspoken, Carole Mortimer, Harlequin, 1983, Ray Olivere cover art

Harlequin Presents #636

“You’ve forgotten how to be a woman!”

LOVE UNSPOKEN

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

*** Spoiler alert ***

It must be the change of seasons. Something in the air, because I can’t explain it, I really liked this one—almost loved it, actually, until the end. Carole Mortimer’s Love Unspoken is one of those infamously controversial Harlequin Presents where readers can’t stop talking about it, even though it’s not necessarily well-loved.

The Set Up

The book begins with the heroine, Julie, a jet-setting journalist, having been just released by terrorists who held her and her fellow flight-mates hostage. She’s a little bruised and reeling when her boyfriend, Steve, shows up with concern. Julie and Steve have been dating for six months—by her own admission, some of the happiest she’s ever spent—but Julie, a mature gal in her mid-twenties just can’t make the jump from heavy petting to sex.

She likes keeping Steve on a firm leash, while he pants for more from her, but she’s not giving him any biscuits! Steve knows Julie was involved with the Zack Reedman in the past, in fact, had a year-long affair with him, so could it be old feelings for him that hold her back?

The Plot

Julie adamantly denies having any attachment to Zack, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was no mere affair; Julie had been married to Zack for a year, a turbulent, passionate year, before they separated. She’s still married to Zack despite not having seen him in three years. But time is not on Julie’s side because her best friend is married to Zack’s brother and invites her to spend some time convalescing at their home in the country.

Just co-incidentally it also happens to be the anniversary of Julie and Zack’s marriage, when who should show up unexpectedly, but Zack! Zack has been keeping himself quite busy with plenty of women and now seems to be on the verge of engagement to another woman. Divorce is now on the agenda, yet Zack can’t keep his hands off his ex. Julie, disgusted pushes him away, restating her hatred of him.

Zack’s brother demands to know just what happened to break up the couple. Zack was incredibly jealous and possessive and never appreciated Julie’s career, which kept her out of the country more often than at home. He always accused her of having affairs with her coworkers. On the night they split up for good, Julie got a call to fly out for a job. This is when Julie drops the bombshell: in a final rage, Zack beat and raped her, putting an end to their once loving relationship.

Zack and Julie act in a ridiculous manner as her pursues her, and she flees from him, while they both string along their significant others. But their crazy lust, er love, for each other won’t be denied, and they have a one-night stand together while said significant others are under the same roof with them—Julie’s guy is even the room adjoining hers!

The Insanity Continues

Of course, this being the land of drama, that one night results in pregnancy. Julie does her best to hide the pregnancy from Zack, but he finds out anyway. Then he finds out that after she left him, she suffered a miscarriage. We’re well near the end of the book, but Zack hasn’t changed one bit and stopped being a jealous lout, because he falsely accuses Julie of hiding that secret because he wasn’t the baby’s father. What an a-hole, right?

Julie and Zack reunite platonically for the baby’s sake, she quits her job, and they settle in the country.

Finally, after having given birth to their child, Zack discovers one more truth: it was due to his violent rape of Julie that she miscarried their first child. Zack leaves his wife at the hospital, locks himself up in his study, drinking his miseries away, wallowing in self-pity. So Julie does the only thing she can, releases herself from the hospital early to run to Zack’s side. She reveals the last truth to him, that her father was a serial adulterer, driving her mother to an early death. That was the reason Julie always kept her self at a distance from Zack, because she never wanted to love as deeply as her mother did. Zack cries, she cries, and the two vow to spend their marriage together as one passionate affair.

Final Analysis of Love Unspoken

Now why the hell did I like a book like this?

I can’t explain. The emotional ups and down in Love Unspoken were thrilling, with almost every chapter ending in a shocking cliffhanger where more information is revealed. I can understand why many readers would be turned off by the plot, and to be honest, when I had heard what the book was about, I wasn’t crazy about reading it. But something about it just worked for me. Like I said, it must be something perverse in the air that made me enjoy this. There is no real resolution to their problems. There’s no marriage counseling. No private counseling. No helpful aid from friends and family. Zack’s still jealous, still uses alcohol as a crutch, still potentially violent. And Julie is…well, Julie’s clearly not all there, either, because she’s willing to overlook all those dangerous flaws because of true love.

What a horrible hero. What a horrible heroine. She’s a codependent user, and he’s a drunk abuser. They deserved each other and will no doubt have a very long, very rocky marriage where they make everyone miserable, including themselves, but will only be more miserable apart from one another. What a crazy mess. And I liked it.

1 reply »

  1. Great review as usual, Jacqueline.

    I remember reading “Love Unspoken” when I was a teenager, and while I really liked Julie, I hated Zack and couldn’t understand why she was with him and remained with him because he is a total bastard.

    Having said that, “Love Unspoken” was pretty typical for Harlequin Presents and much of the Harlequin line of books in the 70’s/early 80’s: emotionally and physically abusive “heroes”; simpering heroines who happily take the abuse and subjugate themselves in ways that women probably wouldn’t do today. In Harlequin’s world, the E.R. A. wasn’t a thing, and women were supposed to be subservient in every way to men and to smile about it and accept it.

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